Helping emergency services improve command and control
February 11, 2022
Background: Many police, fire and emergency medical services rely on emails, PDFs and whiteboards at key moments prior to tackling an incident. During an emergency, radios often become the main or only method of communication. One of Northern Europe’s largest fire brigades wanted an innovative digital command support tool that would provide, in the field, the same level of situational awareness in an app as in the command centre. This way they could increase collaborative planning/response capabilities and situation awareness.
Challenge: Enable Incident Commanders to take better-informed decisions on how to distribute scarce resources based on timely and accurate situational progress reports, resource requirements and time estimates throughout an incident.
Solution:Exonaut® Command and Control software provides a real-time incident overview, including asset tracking in a live map. It supports instant sharing of information among emergency personnel, as well as a library of emergency plans from major objects in a region.
Benefits: Information is shared much more effectively during an incident. Radio calls and physical meetings are kept to a minimum, freeing up time for firefighters and operators to focus on incidents and readiness for new incidents.
Customer: The Fire Department has over 20 fire stations serving an area inhabited by over 500,000 residents with many large industrial plants. The Fire Department also has responsibility for rescue operations across a wider area with over a million more inhabitants.
Today, information relating to an emergency is often shared using analogue methods, such as whiteboards, or a multitude of digital channels. These include PDFs, Dropbox, Google maps, emails and other tools not specifically designed for this purpose.
Exonaut simplifies many of the tasks that take time away from responding to an incident. For a fire department, for instance, this could be sharing basic instructions, i.e., where to park vehicles, as well as key data, such as the size of a building, the number of occupants and the location of hydrants and emergency exits.
According to Alexander Jarl, Head of Research at 4C Strategies, “Using our software, a Commander at a scene can state the overall goal of the incident and assign tasks or missions to his sector Commanders. He or she can also sketch the current situation along with a rough plan directly on a tablet or smartphone using freehand drawing tools, icons, shapes and grids. These are instantly shared between all operators and Incident Command. Today, a physical meeting is typically called and a printed image from Google Maps is placed on a whiteboard, with fridge magnets used to represent vehicles. Sector Commanders have to photograph the whiteboard, before returning to their respective sectors. Exonaut digitalises this process, making the information instantly available to the right people. This reduces the need for key personnel to leave the scene and attend physical meetings. On top of the purely tactical mapping aspect, you also have the ability to view and share other information such as building information, schematics, blueprints, risk areas, etc.”
The solution is used by police and fire departments at a number of major cities throughout Europe. By integrating the solution with emergency call centres, the flow of critical information is further improved, as everything is available in the same common tool. Permissions-based activity ensures sensitive data is only available to those with the rights to access it.
“At 4C, user-centric development is driving the Exonaut roadmap as we move into a new era of data-driven services for emergency services. The learnings from more than five years of working side-by-side with emergency services customers are now being incorporated into the next generation platform currently being developed.”
Alexander Jarl, Head of Research, 4C Strategies
Real-time situational awareness
Exonaut has a unique interactive map function that utilises geo-tagging, to follow the individual movements of respondents and vehicles during an incident. This asset-tracking, situational awareness feature allows a Commander to follow events as they occur from a remote location on any device. Using an overlaid map grid, a Commander can pinpoint and relay where resources are and redirect them at any time during an incident. Thanks to this, radio communication can be limited to status reports rather than positional updates.
“Reducing the need to communicate over the radio offers considerable benefits as emergency personnel can focus on the incident and Commanders don’t have to plot progress, they follow it on screen and plan where, if necessary, to send backup resources,” explains Alexander.
Command and Control software
Exonaut’s Command and Control software provides an integrated, web-based emergency management solution to support mission-critical decisions – from the control room to the front lines. The system provides a comprehensive incident overview with map-based situational awareness, asset tracking, incident logs and custom dashboards. Exonaut has been developed, and continues to evolve, to respond to frontline requirements from the military, police, fire and emergency medical services.
Instant access to thousands of objects for a fire department
Exonaut supports the ability to store and instantly call up a library of objects, i.e., large industrial and commercial buildings in a region. One of Northern Europe’s largest fire departments had thousands of objects listed. As well as building information, additional data can include such things as the location of fire hydrants, fire doors, emergency exits and highly flammable areas, among other things. These controls, which are specified by the unique requirements of every organisation, can be instantly retrieved by Command and shared with firefighters onsite to support a response. Noted observations can also be listed, i.e., firefighting obstacles such as smoke-conducting shafts or small stairwells that could be difficult to navigate with breathing apparatus.
Critical event management
As technology advances, so do the capabilities of Exonaut, and with it, the user cases for the emergency services. Critical event management in fluid situations is a typical example. Being able to follow all emergency personnel remotely in a real-time map, at a football stadium, for instance, gives a Commander an overview that isn’t possible without Exonaut. During a forest fire, when thousands of resources can be spread across hundreds of kilometres, Exonaut can be used to ensure each sector is kept up to date with the fire, while allowing Commanders to see sector-by-sector responses. In both scenarios, new plans and objectives can be easily and instantly shared as the situational evolves.”
Exploring new ground
As part of developing features for emergency services, 4C has partnered with Vinnova, the Swedish Innovation Agency. This has led to an integrated drone control solution, which enables a user to fly a drone directly in the Exonaut app to get a bird’s eye view of an incident as it evolves. The live stream can be viewed in the app by the team on the ground and by the command centre.
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